We cannot pay back, we can only pay forward

In my opening remarks at this year’s Renewal and Remembrance, I shared a quote with attendees, something I had heard years ago. The quote is, “You can never pay back; you can only pay forward.” How true that was for the volunteers who were preparing to spread lime, install plants, prune trees, and do other work at Arlington National Cemetery. As Americans, we can never repay the soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Instead, the work that day at Arlington, something PLANET members have been performing for 13 years, was a tribute to the past and signified our continued commitment to honor the men and women to whom we owe our liberties and freedom. It was also a gift to the future. As I told attendees, “Children who plant here today will return years from now with their families to show them the garden where they volunteered. These children are learning what we already know — that by renewing the earth, we renew our souls.”

I went on to share with volunteers that Renewal and Remembrance was a perfect example of sustainability — where, as an industry, we help sustain our environment, sustain commitment to our troops and our country, and sustain our commitment to protecting and nurturing this hallowed place.

As we move into late summer, I want to expand on this theme by drawing attention to the three P’s — People, Profit, and Planet. As mentioned in last month’s message, the true definition of sustainability goes well beyond the environment. Don’t get me wrong. Our environment is critical to our industry and to everyone and everything that calls earth their home. But as individuals who want to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends, we need to sustain our health and have a good balance in life. Similarly, as business owners and managers who want to ensure our livelihoods and that of our employees, we need to continue to fine-tune our operations and sustain a profit.

Then, of course, there’s planet earth and the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET). One of PLANET’s charges is to continually remind Americans about the importance of green space and sustainable environments. Another, of course, is to cultivate and safeguard opportunities for our members. Individually, we can all make a difference in our environment and help improve the lives of others. By working together as PLANET members, though, we can make a huge difference and touch many more lives.

Already, most of us are aware and take advantage of the many resources that our association of professionals has to offer. There’s no need to document them here, but only to say that this list is growing and increasing in value all the time. A new initiative, PLANET Universe, is one example. Think of PLANET Universe as a Google for the green industry where contractors, suppliers, consultants, students, PLANET staff, and others can share ideas and best practices to better their lives, businesses, and environment. You will hear more about this universe later as the year progresses.

There’s a fourth “P” to consider, as well, one that stands for Professionalism. You’re not a true professional if you are not a steward of the environment. You’re not a true professional if you don’t conduct an honest, ethical, and profitable operation. You’re not a true professional if you allow your life to get out of balance. Lastly, you’re not a true professional in this industry if you’re not conscious of how much help you’ve received by friends, family, and peers along the way and are willing to pay forward to help others.

PLANET Day of Service this year was a prime example of paying forward to help others, and it was a tremendous success, thanks to hundreds of PLANET members and volunteers and event champions like PLANET member Richard Heller, CLP, CLT, and PLANET Director of Public Relations Heather Finney. Many of these same volunteers and champions will be at this year’s Green Industry Conference to discover more ways to give back to their communities, to learn more about the broader meaning of sustainability, and to further hone their “professional” skills. I encourage all of you to join them in Louisville this fall and participate in a tremendous networking and learning experience. Again, by working together, we can help ensure the health of our environment, our businesses, and our minds and bodies — all the time learning how to pay forward and make our planet a better place to live.

Bill Hildebolt, Ph.D., CTP, CTP-CSL
PLANET President

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